I love the short story format and was looking forward to reading this book but after reading a few stories, Lahiri's generally pessimistic characters and plots I found too depressing. She does have fine insight into the maladies of modern relationships, which apply universally and not just to Indian society. But how to translate this angst into a piece of jewelry?
I decided to meld elements from a few different stories into my design. In the story of the same name as the collection, The Interpreter of Maladies, the main character is a tour guide in his spare time but also works for a doctor as an interpreter for the numerous Indian dialects of his patients-- hence the title. Most of the story takes place as he drives around an American famiy of Indian heritage, visiting temples and places of interest. My imagination was captured by the author's description of an historic temple built in the shape of a gigantic chariot with elaborately carved stone wheels so since these could also represent the shape of a mandala, I decided to make that my primary shape and build the rest of the piece around that. I found this image of a wheel from the Konark Sun Temple, built in the 13th century. This ornate beauty is an impressive 10 feet high and is one of twelve pairs in all.
Another one of the stories focused on a character who moves into a home and finds in the attic a large statue of the Virgin Mary which offends her Indian husband but she becomes obsessed with it and at the same time, the goddess Kali. Kali-- such a rich source of imagery-- to me she represents an entire culture more than any other religious symbol. She is the goddess of time, change and distruction-- basically, entropy--we're born, we live, we die. From Wikipedia: “In spite of her seemingly terrible form, Kali Ma is often considered the kindest and most loving of all the Hindu goddesses, as she is regarded by her devotees as the Mother of the whole Universe. And because of her terrible form, she is also often seen as a great protector.” I love Her multiple arms so I determined that my focal must have some too. I decided on the 10-armed incarnation and included a turquoise and red palette as in traditional interpreations of the goddess.
"My Mother is the principle of consciousness. She is Akhanda Satchidananda; indivisible Reality, Awareness, and Bliss. The night sky between the stars is perfectly black. The waters of the ocean depths are the same; The infinite is always mysteriously dark. This inebriating darkness is my beloved Kali."
Inspiring, huh? In college I had a real love affair with the writing of Rabindranath Tagore, a 20th century Indian mystical poet who was the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.
“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky”
But I was still searching for an idea for the interpreter portion of my design when inspiration struck and I decided to mix up my cultural symbolism and use milagros, traditional Mexican metal charms used for shrines and as personal amulets as a focus for prayer and healing. Luckily I found a 10-piece set on Etsy with just body parts that was perfect.
So I mixed up some bronze polymer, set about making the mandala/chariot wheel, backed it with some textured turquoise clay with red antiquing, added a spiky red halo to represent ones I've seen painted around Kali's head, then ten arms antiqued to match the pewter milagros charms. They spill through the mandala in a river of supplication to the Goddess. The arms could be angel's wings, carrying the prayers of the supplicants to Heaven where Kali can hear them. Write your own story about it.
Here's a list of the other participants-- be sure to check out their fine work.
Sarajo Wentling http://sjdesignsjewelry.blogspot.com/
Jeanne Steck http://www.gemsbyjeannemarie.blogspot.com/
Mary Harding http://www.maryhardingjewelrybeadblog.blogspot.com/
Karin Grange http://ginkgoetcoquelicot.blogspot.fr/
Ann Schroeder http://www.beadlove.wordpress.com/
Mary K McGraw http://www.mkaymac.blogspot.com/
Rachel Stewart http://www.bluefinchjewelry.blogspot.com/
Andrew Thornton, Laurel Ross, Alison Herrington, Terri Greenawalt, and Karen Hiatt http://andrew-thornton.blogspot.com/